Last Updated:Saturday - 12/11/2010
May 8, 2000
Mary is a model for Christian faith
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
With the month of May traditionally dedicated to Mary, it is appropriate to contemplate and honour our Blessed Mother.
Let us begin by stating that Mary's place in the Church is precisely that, "in the Church." In his 1987 encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), Pope John Paul opens his work with the following: "The mother of the Redeemer has a precise place in the plan of salvation, for 'when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.'"
The remainder of his encyclical expands on the precise place Mary has in the plan of salvation. To summarize this encyclical in very simple terms, the Church is to venerate Mary as her beloved mother and as her model in faith, hope and charity.
Mary is the first and brightest example offered to us as a "pilgrim of faith" in Jesus. She is the one on whom we are to model our faith journey. It is important to reflect on Mary's personal pilgrimage of faith to better understand our own journey of faith.
In Mary, we find a sure example of how to deal with the questions and mysteries of God himself. Mary accepts, trusts, is obedient, abandons herself to God, suffers and rejoices on her pilgrimage. In the midst of daily trials and many adversities, Mary chooses to faithfully advance on her journey of faith.
When you consider all that she endured, one must conclude that her faith was indeed heroic.
Can you imagine what she must have felt like upon hearing two different and seemingly contradictory prophesies? At the Annunciation the angel said to her, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).
Then at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Mary would hear this from Simeon, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 3:34-35).
At this point many of us would be tempted to say to the Lord, "Look here! You promised that my son would be great and mighty and that his kingdom would never end. And now you say that he will be rejected and that even I will suffer much. This whole affair scares me."
"If this plan is going to proceed, I need to have more information. I need to know the details. How can you possibly ask me to accept all of this and leave me here in the dark? Am I not entitled to be in on the plan, just a little?"
Mary's faith would meet other challenges. Soon, Joseph would tell her that they were to flee to Egypt because the child's life was in danger. Her infant was only a baby and already he was wanted dead. How long would they be gone? Would they ever be back?
Later, after searching in desperation for their lost child, Joseph and Mary were baffled at Jesus' reply that he must be about his father's business. If this weren't enough, Mary, together with her son, would face the cross. Now at Golgotha, Simeon's prophecy is confirmed, "This child is destined to be a sign of contradiction and a sword will pierce your heart."
The promises of the angel at the Annunciation must have seemed almost impossible. Upon seeing her beaten son hanging on a cross, we can imagine any mother saying, "Look God, I've endured a lot. So far I've done my best to cooperate with you but this is just too much. I can't take this. I'm angry. I feel betrayed.
"If trusting you brings these results, who needs it? What good could possibly come from all of this? I give up. You're God. Do what you want but without me. I quit."
Contrary to this, we are told in Scripture that Mary kept and pondered all of these things in her heart. In contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled from the cross, Mary proves the depth of her discipleship and through faith, she chooses to hope against all hope that the promises revealed to her would be fulfilled.
Not even beneath the cross did Mary's faith fail. In this sense, Mary's example of faith becomes a model for the whole Church and for each one of us wishing to follow Christ. She was the first disciple of her son, the first believer. "It is to her as mother and model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission" (Mother of the Redeemer, 37).
(First in a series)
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